Head of UN ceasefire monitoring team arrives in Hodeidah
Patrick Cammaert touches down in Hodeidah, where his team will monitor a ceasefire
The head of the UN team sent to monitor the ceasefire in Yemen's city of Hodeidah arrived in the Red Sea port city on Sunday.
Patrick Cammaert, a retired Dutch general, traveled to Hodeidah after meeting with rebels in Sanaa and government officials in Aden over the past 48 hours.
The UN mission is meant to secure the functioning of Hodeidah’s port as well as supervise the withdrawal of fighters from the city.
"The Redeployment Coordination Committee [RCC] led by General Cammaert, will focus on the issues of defusing Houthi landmines in the port and residential areas," a Yemeni military source told The National on Sunday.
The ceasefire in Hodeidah was brokered during UN-led peace talks in Sweden at the beginning of December and the agreement went into effect on December 17.
General Cammaert's team will not be uniformed or armed, the UN has said, but it will provide support for the management and inspections at the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa, and strengthen the UN presence in the war-torn region.
The UN team was on Friday given an initial period of 30 days to monitor a ceasefire between government forces and Houthi rebels in Hodeidah and surrounding areas, with any breaches to be reported by Secretary General Antonio Guterres to the Security Council.
The mandate came from a resolution unanimously adopted by the 15-member council, one week after Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy to Yemen, said there was an urgent need for the truce to be monitored on the ground.
The resolution authorises the secretary general to establish and send an advance team to begin monitoring the ceasefire and to put into effect the Stockholm agreement. Mr Guterres will report to the Council on a weekly basis regarding the ceasefire and the situation in Yemen.
The resolution is supported by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the main powers in the Arab Coalition that backs Yemen's government.
The ceasefire in Hodeidah remains fragile after the Arab Coalition reported on Sunday that "Houthi rebels have violated the agreement several times during the last three days," a Yemeni government official told The National.
"The rebels have been shelling the port despite the arrival of General Cammaert and his team to Yemen," the official said.
Fierce clashes also erupted on Sunday between government backed forces and Houthi rebels in Al Saleh city, in west Hodeidah, a military source told The National.
"Clashes started after the Houthis targeted sites affiliate with the Resistance of Tihama with Cornet rockets," the source said.
The truce in Hodeidah was due to be followed by the withdrawal within days of fighters on both sides. The ceasefire accord is regarded as the most significant step towards ending the devastating conflict that has raged in Yemen since 2015.
The text approved by the Security Council "insists on the full respect by all parties of the ceasefire agreed" for Hodeidah.
A newly trained local security force will take responsibility for securing the port of Hodeidah after the withdrawal of Houthi and government forces, Waleed Al Qudaimi, the deputy governor of Hodeidah, told The National.
"Over 1500 soldiers graduated last week after they received professional training," Mr Al Qudaimi said.
Additional forces will be deployed to Hodeidah in the coming months, Colonel Wathah Al Dubaish, spokesperson of the UAE-backed Al Amalikah forces told The National.
"Five thousand security forces are going to be stationed in the city of Hodeidah and in other districts," Colonel Al Dubaish said.
Updated: December 23, 2018 08:25 PM